Fashion Aids Women in Darfur

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Some may argue that fashion dictates one ideal of beauty, but the San Francisco organization fAction disproves this stereotype by melding together fashion with activism.

“Seam of Consciousness”, the first fashion show sponsored by fAction brought awareness to the atrocities of what is occurring to the women in Darfur. Through door fees, selling screen-printed patches and a silent auction, fAction raised over $3,000 for the Darfur Women’s Center during their Nov. 15 fashion show.
Designer Nikole Lent opened the show as a guest speaker. She said, “Over the past five years almost a million people have been brutally killed just in this region [of Sudan]. Tens of thousand of women have been raped…we will not accept violence towards women in our global and local community. I envision a world where women can walk safely down the street at night and we can wear whatever we want because my hot outfit has nothing to do with you.”
At the show, guest speakers Lent and Abigail Wick explained the situation of women in Darfur and what the Darfur Women’s Center is doing to combat the violence towards Sudanese women. The center has created a place for women in Darfur to come together and feel safe as well as bringing new innovations for these women.
In an interview with Lent, she said, “[A] huge element of the women’s center is teaching the women how to use solar cookers. Going to get firewood is one of the most common places where women get raped. Even with armed guards, it’s still common.”
FAction’s other goal was to show the connection between the violence towards women in Sudan with the violence towards women in our own country.
Designer Kari Koller said, “People are not acknowledging what’s going on with [the women in Darfur], or the women in our own society.”
The designers became emotionally connected to the violence of women in their own community when San Francisco activist Kirsten Brydum was murdered on a trip to New Orleans. Brydum was visiting New Orleans as part of her national Collective Autonomy Tour. There have been no leads to the case as to whether the murder was related to her work as an activist.
Lent said, “Kirsten was a dear friend of mine. Her death has hugely impacted the community [and] it’s important to link local violence to global violence. To draw that connection between a woman in our community who was murdered and how [her death] affects people in a huge way, and the big impact that one death causes.”
Combating violence toward women with fashion may seem counter intuitive, but not at a fAction runway show, which is by no means a typical fashion show. Koller said, “We see fashion as art. We get a lot of crap from our friends, but for me I want to get away from that stereotype of the superficial, pretentious, vanity idea of fashion and use [fashion] for a good cause”
The six designers, Angela Dix, Nikole Lent, Rachel Znerold, Moriah Lueders, Kari Koller and Lula Chapman, were present as models in their own runway show. Unlike the typical runway of rail thin pouty models, each show was a performance art piece with messages ranging from environmental concerns to the operations of the mainstream fashion media.
Most of the performances held this theme of questioning what it means to be a woman. Znerold said, “[There is] unspoken violence against women, emotional violence and psychological violence and it’s perpetrated by the mainstream fashion industry. It’s really questioning what is okay and what is not okay to look like. We want to support that there is no right or wrong image of what a woman looks like.”
With such a successful fashion show, fAction plans to have more shows in the future. Their plan is to have a fashion show every three months to bring awareness to the community while continuing to highlight the creativity of local women.

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